Study finds female students less likely to drop engineering program if female mentored

May 22, 2017 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers with the University of Massachusetts has found evidence that suggests women are more likely to continue to pursue a degree in engineering if they have a female mentor. Nilanjana Dasgupta, an instructor, and her Ph.D. student Tara Dennehy paired first-year female engineering majors with older mentors for a year and then looked at the impact mentoring had the decision to continue pursuing their degree as they moved into their second year. They have published their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Far fewer women than men receive bachelor's degrees in the STEM fields (just 13 to 33 percent), despite women comprising approximately 56 percent of all students attending college in the United States. Dasgupta and Dennehy note that the disparity is most notable in engineering. They suggest the reason that choose to drop out or to change majors is because many such environments are unfriendly, or even hostile to female students. Quite often, female students are made to feel as if they do not belong. They note also that some efforts have been made to make such environments friendlier, but thus far, little progress has been made. They wondered if female students in such fields might benefit from having a female . To find out, they enlisted the assistance of 150 people (male and female) working as engineers to serve as mentors for 150 female engineering students during their freshman year. The students met with their mentor once a month and were interviewed by the research pair three times during their first year and then again, a year later.

The researchers found that the female students were much more likely to continue to pursue their engineering degree if they had a female mentor, but not if they had a male mentor (18 percent of them dropped out) or no mentor (11 percent dropped out). They report that all of the female students given a female mentor chose to continue with their major their second year. They also note that mentoring appeared to have a lasting impact, as most of those assigned female mentors reported plans to continue with their engineering degree into their third year.

Explore further: Study shows unexpected path for women to major in science

More information: Female peer mentors early in college increase women's positive academic experiences and retention in engineering, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1613117114

Abstract
Scientific and engineering innovation is vital for American competitiveness, quality of life, and national security. However, too few American students, especially women, pursue these fields. Although this problem has attracted enormous attention, rigorously tested interventions outside artificial laboratory settings are quite rare. To address this gap, we conducted a longitudinal field experiment investigating the effect of peer mentoring on women's experiences and retention in engineering during college transition, assessing its impact for 1 y while mentoring was active, and an additional 1 y after mentoring had ended. Incoming women engineering students (n = 150) were randomly assigned to female or male peer mentors or no mentors for 1 y. Their experiences were assessed multiple times during the intervention year and 1-y postintervention. Female (but not male) mentors protected women's belonging in engineering, self-efficacy, motivation, retention in engineering majors, and postcollege engineering aspirations. Counter to common assumptions, better engineering grades were not associated with more retention or career aspirations in engineering in the first year of college. Notably, increased belonging and self-efficacy were significantly associated with more retention and career aspirations. The benefits of peer mentoring endured long after the intervention had ended, inoculating women for the first 2 y of college—the window of greatest attrition from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors. Thus, same-gender peer mentoring for a short period during developmental transition points promotes women's success and retention in engineering, yielding dividends over time.

Press release

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21 comments

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MR166
1 / 5 (1) May 22, 2017
"They note also that some efforts have been made to make such environments friendlier, but thus far, little progress has been made. "

What unadulterated trash. People enter science and engineering because that is their passion not for social reasons. Unless one has a thirst for this particular type of knowledge the classes could be quite boring.
MR166
1 / 5 (1) May 22, 2017
Also the courses are quite rigorous in comparison to other degrees. Thus, not suited to everyone.

EmceeSquared
4 / 5 (4) May 23, 2017
Please cite your sociological research showing that conclusion. Common experience tells us that role models and inspirational figures are key in motivating people to relate to professions. Prominent engineers frequently mention people who inspired and guided them to persistence. We name awards after such people for exactly that reason.

MR166:
What unadulterated trash.

EmceeSquared
3.7 / 5 (3) May 23, 2017
So "not suited to everyone" = "not for girls". So you're just a sexist. Of course your uncited and lonely opionions must be the gospel truth.

MR166:
Also

MR166
1 / 5 (1) May 23, 2017
"So "not suited to everyone" = "not for girls""

No, that is what you think deep down in your heart. Also, equal is not the same as different. If you think that there are no differences between the sexes you are delusional or very misinformed.
MR166
not rated yet May 23, 2017
Your thoughts were correct 50 years ago but not now. If a woman excels at math and science she is not subjected to an "Unfriendly Environment" as the author claims.
MR166
1 / 5 (1) May 23, 2017
"Common experience tells us that role models and inspirational figures are key in motivating people to relate to professions. "

Perhaps for some but not all. One might look up to a role model because they are knowledgeable in a field that one has an interest in but the interest and aptitude come first.
EmceeSquared
3.7 / 5 (3) May 23, 2017
No, this article is about girl students dropping from engineering programs. You said more rigorous programs (like engineering) are not for everyone. Unless you're so deranged you're blurting complete non sequiturs, you're offering your explanation for the observed dropout rate among girls.

But you are so deranged that you can't even admit your blurted sexism.

MR166:
No, that is what

EmceeSquared
3.7 / 5 (3) May 23, 2017
Except actual plentiful research results show you're lying and/or delusional.

Also, it shouldn't require "excels" to avoid an unfriendly learning environment, but indeed that's indeed what is required of females, though it's far from a guarantee.

You're a cowardly sexist.

MR166:
Your


MR166
1 / 5 (1) May 23, 2017
Look squared, unless you, male or female, excel and enjoy science and math it is a waste of time to plan a STEM career.
EmceeSquared
3 / 5 (2) May 23, 2017
As an engineer, and formerly a STEM student, I of course knew many, many STEM students and professionals, many of them academically/financially successful, who were at best mediocre science and math students just grinding it out for the expected paycheck or other non-enjoyment reasons. Plenty of them were bad at science or math, but good at cheating, ass-kissing or other methods keeping their grade/job. Lots weeded out, but many were not. All too many, as I can say from far too many stupid, avoidable episodes working with them.

And by far most of them who weren't earning their place on merit were male. The females were weeded out mostly far earlier, dashing their talents and/or enjoyment on at least the low expectations by parents/teachers of their gender rather than of the female herself. And many of the rest of the weeded out females after facing boys locker room teamwork against the girls.

All of which is confirmed by actual statistical studies.

MR166:
Look
Dingbone
May 23, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
EmceeSquared
3 / 5 (2) May 23, 2017
Not dropping out is at least a start. There are many factors against females succeeding in engineering careers, so reducing any bottleneck is valuable.

When more women proceed through engineering careers there are more female mentors and more female role models for the next cycle. More engineers from the gender that is a majority of people means more engineers, which we need in our machine age society.

Dingbone
Women have generally

jjesterj
1 / 5 (2) May 23, 2017
So women are just children with no agency, incapable of achieving without the help of other women. Got it. Feminism, lifting women up by putting women down.
EmceeSquared
3 / 5 (2) May 23, 2017
No, people regardless of gender are strongly influenced by role models and supporters they can relate to, especially when facing adversity their mentors show can be overcome. Males already have plenty of that support, an unfair advantage this study shows can be overcome. And will be increasingly overcome as more females become mentors and complete the cycle.

While you are just a sexist and a troll. I'd blame bad role models, but you have agency and could transcend that - but you don't.

jjesterj:
So women

Lex Talonis
1 / 5 (1) May 24, 2017
http://www.dailym...ing.html

'What a disaster': Top scientist says high school physics is being 'feminised' - with difficult equations taken out of exams to make the subject more appealing to girls..

Dumb girls like dumb feminist tutors, who teach them dumb mutual consensus courses.
jjesterj
not rated yet May 25, 2017
No, people regardless of gender are strongly influenced by role models and supporters they can relate to, especially when facing adversity their mentors show can be overcome. Males already have plenty of that support, an unfair advantage this study shows can be overcome. And will be increasingly overcome as more females become mentors and complete the cycle.

While you are just a sexist and a troll. I'd blame bad role models, but you have agency and could transcend that - but you don't.

jjesterj:
So women


"men support men", no we don't. We are in competition, always.
Dingbone
May 25, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Dingbone
May 25, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
jjesterj
1 / 5 (1) Jun 06, 2017
I don't known about men, but the scientists don't always compete as a group, as they're jointly fighting against intruders and outsiders (so called "crackpots" and specialists from another areas). Once such an outsiders is women, the worse for her. One documented example is https://www.aps.o...tory.cfm - the founder of Nuclear Shell Model, who couldn't get permanent proffesorship to the end of her life.


1. Science is the competition of ideas to get to the ONE AND ONLY TRUTH.
2. Sure cooperation can get to the truth but so can not cooperating.
3. Fighting against intruders and outsiders, lol.
EmceeSquared
1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2017
jjesterj:
1. Science


Science ≠ scientists. If you ever practiced science instead of just trolling on a science website you'd easily understand that. If you weren't a troll you might have just clicked the link to the example of Mayer and easily understood from there.

But you're nothing but a troll, so of course you didn't.

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